Vols whiff at QB

Tennessee's failure to sign a quarterback today means the Vols will go two years in a row without bringing in a freshman QB. It also means they'll have a better shot at landing a stud for their 2010 class.

Think about it: If you were a hot-shot high school quarterback looking for immediate playing time, wouldn't you be tempted to sign with a school that hadn't brought in a freshman QB in two years? Wouldn't you be tempted to sign with a school that has just two scholarship QBs returning for the 2010 season?

Of course you would. First-year Tennessee head man Lane Kiffin believes most high schoolers would feel the same way. That's why he wasn't terribly upset that the Vols' 19 signees for 2009 include no one quarterback prospects. He'd rather gamble on getting a great prospect next February than settle for a good prospect this February.

"I think at the quarterback position you've got to start so early recruiting 'em to get the type of guy that you want," Kiffin said during his National Signing Day news conference. "To jump in this late, you have to do one of two things: You either have to keep the kids that were committed that didn't fit the system in my opinion or you had to take down-the-line guys."

Kiffin chose Option C (none of the above). He informed both quarterback commitments he inherited from predecessor Phillip Fulmer (Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty) that they did not fit the system UT will utilize in '09, prompting both to decommit. Kiffin also decided against taking one of the "down-the-line guys." It's not his style.

"To bring a down-the-line guy in just to sign a guy for a body is not going to help us," Kiffin said. "The kid's going to sit there and get beat out by the kids we continue to recruit."

Tennessee signed Casey Kelly out of Sarasota, Fla., for its 2008 recruiting class but he opted for pro baseball over college football. As a result, the Vols will have just three scholarship QBs in '09 – senior Jonathan Crompton, junior Nick Stephens and sophomore B. J. Coleman.

"We have a great set-up to be able to recruit a great guy in this next class – having gone two years in a row without signing a guy," Kiffin said.

Although Tennessee's QB shortage will be a major plus for the 2010 recruiting outlook, it represents a serious minus for the 2009 season outlook. Kiffin concedes as much.

"It's not a good situation," he said. "I've never heard of it, so we've got a lot of work to do."

Having played quarterback in high school and college, Kiffin knew when he accepted the UT reins on Dec. 1 that he was not likely to find a QB to his liking in the short time remaining to National Signing Day.

"It doesn't happen," he said. "You don't find a guy with two months left in recruiting that's the perfect quarterback. It's hard to find in one year, let alone two months."

Kiffin will look like a moron if the 2009 Vols suffer injuries at quarterback and lack the depth to compete. He'll look like a genius, however, if the Vols land a high-profile prep passer this time next year. His final comment on the subject made clear that he understands this:

"We're working on that right now."

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